A parent’s need for child support changes over time, as does a parent’s ability to pay it. For a number of reasons, therefore, either parent can petition the court for a modification of a previous child support order. However, courts do not automatically grant all requests to modify. If you need a change in child support, it’s important to understand when and how you can ask for one.
Matteucci Family Law represents parents who seek a modification of child support and those who oppose it. We also explore out-of-court solutions whenever possible. If you believe a prior child support order should be changed or you don’t agree with a request to modify it, let us help.
When Can Child Support Be Changed?
In order for the court to approve a request to modify child support, there must have been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the last order was entered. While courts recognize that orders are not written in stone and should be adaptable to changing situations, they don’t want parents constantly coming back to ask for modifications every time there’s a slight change.
What exactly constitutes a material and substantial change in circumstances will vary from one case to another. Sometimes, the presence of one factor is enough to justify a modification; in other cases, even a combination of factors won’t be enough. However, most courts will presume that there has been a material and substantial change if more than one year has passed since the last child support order and the present circumstances would cause at least a 20% increase or decrease in the monthly child support payment.
Examples Of Material And Substantial Changes
Bearing in mind that every case is different, there are some changes in circumstances that often support a parent’s request for a child support modification. These are some examples:
Changes in either parent’s income. Job loss, reduced hours, disability, and other factors can cause either parent’s income to drop. If the parent receiving child support experiences reduced income, the parent who pays child support may be ordered to pay more. On the other hand, if the paying parent starts making less money, that might be cause for a reduction in child support.
Increases in income can also affect child support. If the parent who receives support goes back to work, begins earning more money or has the opportunity to do so, the court may reduce child support. In New Mexico, when a child becomes old enough to attend school and one of the parents is a stay-at-home parent, child support will be recalculated assuming the formally stay-at-home parent begins working full-time. Even if the stay-at-home parent continues to stay at home after the child is school age, in New Mexico, child support will be recalculated as if the parent is working full-time. Child support may also increase if the paying parent income increases.
A parent cannot voluntarily quit their job, work fewer hours, or work for less pay than they can actually earn, and use that as a basis for reducing support. A job loss or reduction in hours must be in good faith, and courts will expect there to be evidence that the parent asking for a change in child support has actually tried to earn more.
Changes in the child’s expenses. The child’s expenses may suddenly change due to sickness, injury, disability, educational needs, or other factors. Conversely, the financial needs of the child may have decreased since the last child support order, potentially justifying a decrease in support. The child no longer requiring daycare is an excellent example. Related factors like insurance premiums or incidental costs may also play a role.
Changes in the child’s living situation. New Mexico uses different worksheets to determine the initial child support amount, based on the child’s custody arrangement. A change in that arrangement can therefore affect the amount of child support. For example, as the child grows older, he or she may wish to spend more time or go to live full time with the other parent. This, in turn, can be a basis for modification.
These are just a few of the reasons the court may modify a previous child support order. It’s important for a parent to take action as soon as he or she realizes that changing circumstances may come about.
Sometimes, when the amount of time a child spends with each parent changes, whether upon the agreement of the parents or a court order, child support will also change. For example, if one parent had custody of the child one night per week, but that changes to three nights per week, child support will most probably change.
How Do I Modify Child Support In New Mexico?
The parties can agree, without going to court to modify child support or a parent will need to file a motion in court. However, the parent should first discuss the matter with a knowledgeable family law attorney to make sure there is a basis for requesting a modification. The attorney can review the changes and run updated child support calculations using the appropriate worksheet.
The parent requesting the change should be ready to present sufficient evidence supporting it. This could include anything from providing pay stubs showing reduced earnings or medical bills which depict higher costs for the child. You may also use witness testimony in court to support your request.
You may be the parent who does not want a change in child support, and we can assist you as well. We will review the request made by the other parent, consider the evidence, and advise you of your options. We will also assemble evidence that can rebut the other parent’s motion in court.
Finally, it may be possible to reach an agreement with the other parent outside of court. Although the judge will still need to review and approve any modifications, there’s a higher likelihood of this happening if the parents can settle the matter between themselves. Mediation or discussions between the attorneys are two options for resolving this issue.
Contact Our New Mexico Child Support Modification Attorney
Whether you’re the parent who needs a modification of child support, or you want to keep the previous order as it is, Matteucci Family Law is ready to serve you. Give us a call today to get started.
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with their family law matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.